The Alma Jane was my first wreck, 27 metres down below a line now overgrown with enough stuff that the big knots every 10 metres or so are micro reefs, complete with tiny fish.
I was a bit nervous, still tentative about deep diving, and all of the things that can go wrong. Getting trapped in wrecks is a Thing in diving, though I know it’s extremely unlikely with a ship 30 metres long, with really wide openings and attentive divemasters. But the shadow of claustrophobia that still haunts my diving flowered a bit.
Chris, the divemaster, during the briefing: There are snakes inside the boat.
Me: This ship was sunk on purpose, right, people didn’t die? (Picturing snakes AND ghosts on the same wreck).
Turns out, diving on wrecks has a lot in common with urban exploration of abandoned buildings. Amazing to see the second life that emerges around the rust when it settles in.
Like these enormous teira battlefish lazily swimming around, much bigger than my head.
Or this furtive, scuttling harlequin manta shrimp, moving faster than a mouse, and almost impossible to capture with my compact.
(There were plenty of these spotty fish I should be able to identify after my naturalist dive, but that would involve going back down to the dive shop and perusing books, and there is pulsating music from a Christmas party next to it, and I am missing the quiet of undersea).
Our second dive was more typical, not as deep so I didn’t blow through my air like a drunken sailor, a sort of stepped reef. Lots of micro life to admire.
More nudibranchs. (Much nicer name than sea slug).
I had no idea they even existed before I started diving, and now I know that they are colourful because they eat colourful food — and I can’t see how colourful they are until I bring my flash photos up because colours are obscured at depth. And apparently scientists study them to understand more about the process of learning.
This is the magic of diving, this barrel sponge with many small fish. This is why you learn all of the nervous-making, technical stuff and have endless discussions about whether nitrox will rot your brain. Being with, witness to, the endless hidden parts of the world.